So now we’ve got introductions out of the way, I ought to explain how my OCD manifests itself.Everyone’s OCD takes different forms and severity. I think myself lucky. Most of the time I feel I live an ordinary life – but I know this condition can really debilitate people & take over their lives.
If you suffer from OCD, please be aware these may trigger. They probably would for me if they weren’t already mine.
My 2 main concerns are:
My issue with germs comes in many formats – I don’t like using public toilets, I don’t like touching money, in fact I don’t really like touching anything used by the general public (newpapers, door handles, books, card machines, handrails, seats, you name it). I’m paranoid about what I could catch. I also obsessively worry about stains. Any unexplained stains – be them a tiny mark within a tissue or a book, to large stains on pavements. My imagination runs riot to the worst thing it could possibly be – body fluids. I know logically the chance of this is remote, it’s more likely to be unbleached paper pulp, or someone’s dropped cola, but my mind says ‘what if’. What if, the one time you don’t worry, the one time you assume it’s safe and actually the very worst happens? This is the part of my brain that doesn’t work correctly. It doesn’t filter out these intrusive thoughts – the voices in my head egging me on to think the worse, just in case.
I have been known to come home from a day out and get so worked up about something that happened that I’ve brought on a full blown panic attack. Fortunately I studied Psychology and one of my favourite topics was the Clinical Pscyhology options, so I recognised it for what it was. Now, I recognise the signs earlier and stop them before they take hold. I can imagine how terrifying these are if you don’t know what to expect.
It helps that my doctor explained that germs can’t live forever and that the worst of the contagions for me can only survive for about 1hour. Therefore, if something’s been in my house or my possession for longer than this – even in the worst case scenario – I should be okay. My new friend is the antibacterial spray & those alcohol handgels. I know they’re not perfect, but they’re my security blanket. If I have those around and use them when needed, I instantly feel better. Those negative thoughts get put back in Pandora’s Box for just a little while.
My issue with security is two-fold – I want to make sure the house is safe and secure when I go to sleep at night (doors & windows locked) and the safety & well-being of my family.
Before I got to bed each night I have my set routine of going through the house and making sure all the doors and windows are locked securely. I like to be the last to bed, even when I stay at my family’s house. If, for whatever reason, I do the checking out of order or I get disturbed, it’s harder for me to just go to sleep without checking again. I can lie in bed fighting the urge to go and check because I know I’ve already done it. But then I give way, because however tired I am, I know my brain won’t let me go to sleep with that question ‘what if’ going round in my mind.
Even if I know the doors are all locked, I have a secondary thing that can kick in when I really want to be cruel to myself. I imagine / interpret regular house noises as someone trying to get in, or putting something through the letter box. This started off one Halloween a few years ago when we had some troublesome trick or treaters throwing eggs and putting hosepipes through people’s doors and turning them on. This means that even if I know everything is secure I have to go and investigate what the noises are.
When I’ve been really bad I’ve been up 15-20 times in 1hour and have given up and sat on the sofa rather than keep going upstairs to bed only to come back down minutes later . For some reason, just being downstairs helped.
My other issue – the safety & well being of my family again comes in a couple of forms. If I’m staying in a house with my family I do the ‘what’s that noise?’ party trick again and even though I know it was the something simple like the heating going off, my mind takes off and imagines that it was someone calling out for help, or knocking something over to try and get attention. Again, even if I know what the noise was really, the ‘what if’ looms it’s head and I wonder if I’m having a bit of a psychic moment – the kind often found with families, the ‘I was just going to call you’ moments.
When I’m away from my family I don’t phone them all the time to make sure they’re okay, but it does play on my mind and I do feel responsible for them, so I do check in with them a couple of times a day through a text or email. The thoughts that ‘if you don’t do this, something bad will happen to your family’ have subsided in recent years for which I am thankful. I do find myself having to consciously stop negative thoughts such as this by allowing them into my head but putting relevant negative words in there to counter act them.
So, these are the main manifestations. 90% of the time they are low level and as long as I’m allowed to perform the checks and cleaning as I want I can manage my life quite happily. I was diagnosed 10years ago now, and I think I live a normal life. 10% of the time it’s harder, particularly if I’m under stress of any kind, or especially tired. I’m on medication and my family know about the condition and are very supportive. None of my friends know at all. This is the first time I’ve really put all these thoughts out there since the time I went to the doctors to get my official diagnosis (I already knew what it was from my degree).
It was scary going to the doctors and it’s scary writing this blog. For most people all the above sounds silly and pointless. To me they all make perfect, logical & scientific sense. I hope as this blog progresses, those of you who don’t live with OCD, realise the torment that we can go through and that we don’t want to be like this. I long for the days when I used to pick up a library book and not worry about who has touched it before and what those stains are (it was save me a lot of money too!)
Although it was scary talking to the doctor, I’m so glad I did it. I felt an enormous sense of relief and this has been carthatic too. I do recommend if you have OCD to confide in someone – even if it’s just your GP.
Thanks for stopping by. I hope you’ve got a little insight into what it can be like in my mind.